How we test products
Our mission is to take the guesswork out of finding the perfect sleep products.
We've dedicated hundreds of hours to testing mattresses and sleep accessories, and rely on a team of testers of differing weights, temperature preferences, and sleeping positions to evaluate each product.
Tested products are granted the Sleep Hero tested stamp of approval, a mark of our review's reliability.
If we haven't personally tested a product, please be assured that we invest significant time and energy into scouring the UK market and researching the best recommendations, and we work with a team of sleep experts who review our articles, ensuring that the insights we provide are not only relatable but also reliable.
What is a gel mattress?
So, what exactly is a gel mattress?
Gel is a newcomer to the mattress world, used both as a standalone layer and an infusion, as is common with gel-infused memory foam mattresses.
At its root, though, gel is a polymer made from chemical materials.
It has fantastic heat-diffusing properties, which is why it's often added to memory foam to counteract heat retention. 🥵
You're also likely to find gel mattress toppers and gel pillows marketed as cooling products.
As a standalone material, gel is very responsive, meaning it feels comfortably bouncy and springs back into shape quickly.
But it's pretty rare to find pure gel beds, and you're much more likely to find gel foam mattresses.👌
The Dreams TheraPur mattress is one of our top-choice cooling gel mattresses.
Gel mattress versus gel foam mattress
Let's look at the difference between gel mattresses and gel foam mattresses in more detail. 🕵️♀️
Pure gel mattresses are filled with a thick gel, often in the form of a padded gel layer at the top or bottom of the mattress.
These are hybrid mattress models, and they're often very expensive. 🤑
Gel layers are often combined with hardier foams, as gel itself can be pretty soft.
Gel foam mattresses
These are a little different.
Gel foam mattresses infuse a cooling gel into a different foam material - most commonly, pressure-relieving memory foam.
The cooling gel could be in the form of gel beads, gel particles, gel layers, thermal gel, or even phase-changing gel (which changes from solid to liquid in response to body heat).
The Sleepeezee Immerse 2200 PocketGel Pillow Top mattress, a pocket sprung gel mattress, for example, has gel foam with small gel capsules for better temperature management.
Adding gel to a memory foam mattress aids in terms of cooling properties, better regulates body temperature, and enhances the features of the foam. ❄️
Gel memory foam mattresses are very popular with high-end retailers.
Criteria to consider when purchasing a gel mattress
There are numerous factors to consider before purchasing a gel mattress, regardless of whether you choose a gel-layered mattress or a gel memory foam mattress.
The below will help you make your choice.
Pay attention to mattress density
Foam density is critical when considering the quality of a mattress.
This applies to all foam mattresses, including gel foam mattresses.
In a nutshell:
The higher the density, the higher the quality.
Density refers to how much foam material is packed into a cubic metre. 🧊
The denser the foam, the more support it will give, and the more durable the mattress.
The below illustration can help guide you:
Don't buy a mattress with less than 300 springs for the smallest size - this would indicate inferior quality and support. 🙅♂️
Even a lower budget hybrid gel spring mattress, like the Silentnight Just Bliss Gel Hybrid Mattress (peviously the Silentnight Studio Gel Hybrid Mattress) has a minimum of 1000 pocket springs.
2. Consider the height of the mattress
Gel layers are generally quite soft, meaning you'll sink into them more deeply.
If your mattress is too thin overall, this may be uncomfortable. 😏
This is why you should always choose a gel mattress with a firm and sturdy base to support you.
We wouldn't recommend a mattress lower than 18 cm (7 inches). 📏
Most standard mattresses are about 25 cm (9.8 inches) in height, though you'll also find thinner and thicker ones.
We generally prefer thicker mattresses:
- They look great on most bed bases and act as the centrepiece in your bedroom.
- They make getting in and out of bed easier (especially for the elderly).
- Standard bedding will generally fit better.
Of course, you should also consider your personal preferences, budget, and room size. 🤔
The Silentnight Geltex Ultra 3000 is the ultimate spoil for those looking for a thicker mattress - it measures a full 38 cm (14.9 inches)!
3. Choose the right firmness for your sleeping profile and body type
Since gel is much softer, it's essential to ensure the overall mattress suits your desired level of firmness.
The right degree of firmness can be influenced by your preferred sleeping position, weight, build, and personal preference.
Here is a guideline:
- Light-weight and side sleepers often prefer softer mattresses. ☁️
- Average-weight and combination sleepers generally prefer medium-firm mattresses. 🧸
- Heavier-weight or pure back sleepers or stomach sleepers generally do well on firm mattresses. 🧱
Gel memory foam mattresses are generally softer, while gel layers on top of a spring mattress can be slightly firmer.
The Bensons for Beds iGel Advance 3000i Plush Top mattress is a great mattress that's actually available in soft, medium, and firm options, so you can choose what's most comfortable for you.
4. Always consider trial periods
We get it:
Buying a new mattress is challenging. 😔
It's even more difficult if you're choosing a newer material, like a gel mattress.
This is why we always recommend purchasing from a brand that offers:
- Free delivery and returns: So you don't incur additional expenses.
- Risk-free trial periods: So you're covered in case you don't like it.
- A good guarantee: To protect you from manufacturing faults and shoddy quality.
Trial periods are fantastic.
They give you the chance to try out a mattress in the comfort of your own home.
If you're not satisfied, you can return the mattress and get a full refund. 💰
Give it at least three weeks, though - it may take some time to get used to a new mattress, especially if its feel is vastly different from what you're used to!
But, you do need to look at trials very carefully.
Some brands don't give you a refund and only allow you to exchange the product for another one.
Always check these conditions before your purchase.
All the top gel mattresses we've considered only come with a comfort trial, where you can exchange the mattress for another one if you're not happy.
This isn't ideal, but it still gives you the option to change your mind. 😅
We'd recommend looking at a retailer that offers a wide variety of other mattresses that you may be interested in should you change your mind.
Longest comfort trial of our favourite gel mattresses:
What do gel mattresses cost?
Pure gel mattresses are costly.
You can easily spend up to £1000 or more for the smallest size. 😳
But gel-infused or gel memory foam mattresses are often cheaper.
As with everything, though, you often get what you pay for.
Consider your budget as a first step, and then look at the criteria above.
This will help you make a choice that meets your needs perfectly. 👍
Gel mattress discount codes
Bookmark our discounts page and check back often to see if any great deals are running.
You never know how much you can save with a good sale or coupon code. 😉
You can also sign up to our newsletter to get all the best deals sent straight to your inbox.
Should you buy a gel foam mattress?
There are some excellent gel foam mattresses on the market that won't break the bank.
These are ideal for restless and hot sleepers.
But since they are a little softer, they're best for side sleepers or people of lighter or average weights.
You could also opt for a pure gel mattress, but these are pretty difficult to find - especially in the online mattress world.
You'll find a recap of our favourite gel mattresses available in the UK below.